Winter Projects Part 1

Winter Projects Part 1

Helleborus Spring Promise ‘Elly’. Spring Promise is a series from Helleborus Gold Collection. Most have a very upright flowering habit.

one of the many newer upright hellebores–stlll can’t find a tag…

Those pictures are from a few years ago. I want to see the garden looking like above, but this is what it looks like now:

Hellebore in winter before pruning. The flowers haven’t started to show yet, but the foliage has no redeeming virtue as it looks now, so it goes.

Pre-winter pruning. This is ‘Mary Lou’; foliage looks good, but scroll down for more…

I’ve written about pruning your Hellebores several times before, so now I just want to amend the suggestions. Specifically, leave the foliage if you don’t need to cut it, and for some, cut the foliage before you think you need to.

Extremely ratty looking Helleborus nigercors

Regardless what the flowers are doing, early winter flowering, late flowering, short or tall, leaves that look like this should have been cut long ago. But it’s winter, and always wet, and I waited until the roofers had finished replacing my roof. In the meantime, the flowers started to grow tall, and making sure yesterday that I got the foliage and spared the flower stalks was a challenge.

And much as I love hellebores, this particular one never looks very beautiful. I may move it and see if it will do better in a little more sun. It’s currently in the shadiest spot possible–not only does the sun never hit that spot even on June 21, but it’s also growing underneath an evergreen shrub.

Helleborus nigercors ‘White Beauty’. Except not very beautiful.

But back to pruning. Below is ‘Elly’. It has no flower buds pushing up yet, and the foliage is actually in great condition. So I’ll leave it for now, and check again in a few weeks time.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Elly’

Helleborus orientalis ‘Mary Lou’

Mary Lou on the other hand is really trying to be seen, so despite the foliage looking quite good (see above), she should have had a haircut weeks ago as well. Can I remember next year to do this before Christmas? And again, carefully sparing the flower stalks while cutting all the leaf petioles–I was down on my knees with my head upside down. Uncomfortable. Fortunately, most of the petioles are green and most of the flower stalks are red.

Post pruning. Ahh, much better.

Great Gardening Books

Oh dear, I fell like RLGS is turning into an Ad Agency. Today I got an e-newsletter from North Coast Gardening about some Kindle books that Amazon has on sale. So of course I checked them out, and within a minute I was the proud owner of another Tracy DiSabato-Aust book, “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden”. 

WEll-Tended Perennial Garden

I already have “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” and love it, so I highly recommend her books.

If any of you have great suggestions for gardening books, I’d love to see them. Leave a comment…


5 Design Tips–Pruning Small Trees

5 Design Tips–Pruning Small Trees

We usually think the beauty of trees is either their foliage or their flowers. But let’s not forget structure, shape, limbs and bark. IMHO some of the most beautiful trees are the ones with interesting trunk or limb shape (such as this Acer dissectum from a previous post), or beautiful bark. (Who doesn’t love our native Arbutus menziesii?)

Picture courtesy of Up on Haliburton Hill

Arbutus menziesii. Picture courtesy of Up on Haliburton Hill

In order to appreciate the these features, you have to be able to see them, which often requires  pruning.

1. Thinning

Here are two Acer palmatums ‘Crimson Queen’. The first is allowed to weep right down to the ground, and with shrubs all around, all you see is a mound of burgundy leaves. Some obviously like that look.

Acer palmatum 'Crimson Queen', thanks to Monrovia

Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’, thanks to Monrovia

Same tree, courtesy of Your Garden Sanctuary

Same tree (Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’), courtesy of Your Garden Sanctuary

2. And Limbing Up

The second–still Crimson Queen–is pruned (not “trimmed”) from the bottom (“limbing up”) and through the crown. There are fewer branches altogether, and branches that were weighing down the look of the tree, or lower branches, were pruned to their origin–the trunk– so that there is a more “airy” look to this tree (“thinning”). Here’s a VERY wordy (detailed and comprehensive) tutorial  on pruning and staking  Japanese.

3. Stake


Acer dissectum ‘Inaba Shidare’

Another way to “prune” or train a JM, or any weeping specimen, is to stake it upright until it achieves the ultimate height you want. Again, going back to the Acer dissectum of an earlier post, the leader (most upright branch, or dominant branch) was staked with a curve in it, then allowed to grow a bit, and curved back again. This was done very young, when the branch was pliable. We removed the stake on planting up the container, because we now want the tree to adopt a more natural weeping habit. We’ll keep the lowest branches thinned, and when there is more canopy growth, will probably remove most of the lowest branches so its decorative trunk will always be visible.

Usually staking keeps the leader upright and straight.

4. Multi-stemmed trees

Hamamelis is just one example of multi-stemmed trees. In the winter it blooms and is delightfully fragrant:

In the summer it can have a nice wide vase shape, or just be a little… blah.

Slightly underwhelming Hamamelis virginiana at A Garden for the House

Slightly underwhelming Hamamelis virginiana at A Garden for the House
(Sorry Kevin Lee Jacobs 😦

I can’t cay that my ‘Diane’ Witch Hazel is any better than Kevin Lee Jacobs’, but here it is today, about one-and-a half years since planting:

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

Now, I’m a complete novice at this video thing, and have a rather puny camera with crummy sound. But listen closely and you’ll get the gist of pruning out extraneous branches so you can see the attractive multi-stem structure.

5. Choose the Right Trees

Finally, choose the right trees for the available space–“Right Plant, Right Spot”. You’ve heard me say this before, but make sure you check not only the plant tag, but other sources of information about your proposed tree. The tag might include words such as “dwarf”, “nana“, “compacta”, or any “small” words (mini, little…), yet still be bigger than your space can accommodate. Do a quick google search to find out how big–in height and width–your specimen gets in local gardens–forums are the best for that. I love and the UBC Botanical Garden forums.

There you have it, 5 quick tips for making the best of your small trees. I’d love to hear about your pruning adventures. Leave a comment, question, critique. I’m very keen to learn for others with different experiences.

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Acer griseum. Thanks to Henriette’s Herbal Homepage